Students at Yale University are currently pondering over this question through an online project titled Yale Blackness, which was launched this February by the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY), an organization birthed in 1969 with the goals of enhancing Black student life through political and community action. According to Albert McWilliams, current President of BSAY, the goal of the blog is not to focus on negative outlooks in their collective social space, but rather to inspire thoughtful discussion on the state of the black community on their campus and beyond.

“The purpose of the ‘Yale Blackness’ project is to give Yale students a medium to offer their thoughts on race and culture at Yale University and to motivate students to actively improve race relations,” McWilliams said. “Like many organizations on campus, the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY) recognizes the potential for ‘new media’ to begin a dialogue on racial dynamics on college campuses. Anonymity is a powerful tool, and when used appropriately and respectfully, it can provoke students to offer powerful insight.”

Yale students have been asked to submit anonymous descriptions in 50 words of less with their perceptions and personal reflections of the black community on campus. More than 150 responses have been submitted to the blog, with 5 to 7 posts being updated on the site daily.

Responses have varied, with some controversial in nature and others insightful:

“It seems that the black community at Yale is very tight; so much that black freshman practice self-segregation and are planning to form a ‘black colony’.  This being said they are in a sense becoming “cliquey” to the point where they are nice to non-blacks, but not necessarily open to them. Lastly to comment on black academic life, the majority of black take traditionally easy classes and majors because they cannot take the rigor of other classes or are lethargic, but that is not to say all black people are thus at Yale, just many whom I am acquainted with.”

There are thoughts on love:

“Finding a date for a black chick is…difficult to say the least.”

And others remain complacent:

“I’m a bit skeptical about Yale’s commitment to diversity (take a head count in your next class). Also, don’t be fooled –there’s still racism at Yale. I know plenty of students who think, ‘Oh, she probably got in because she’s black.’ That’s disgusting, but it happens.”

These points of inquiry are not only localized at one private university. What can be agreed is that several of the concepts raised by Yale students are sentiments that are shared by students who attend other institutions as well, and are indeed part of a situation that college students nation-wide may ponder each day: how do black students negotiate the idea or state of blackness each day at their respective campuses?

To read more about the project, visit http://yaleblackness.tumblr.com/

Share your comments with us! What has your experience been like as a black student in spaces that have not always been racially open-minded?

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  • PWI, are in actuality Historically White Institutions, and that’s what I like to call them. I’ve attended them for the tenure from high school now into grad school. Race is an issue and the ignorance is paramount.

    My real critique of some of the posts on the tumblr site that were obviously made by non blacks is that they automatically assume that the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the black students to make them feel welcome. This annoys the shit out of me. Why should black students have to go out of their way to accommodate the feelings of others and to make them feel that they’re approachable.

    And to those complaining of some black students hanging out almost exclusively with other black students…I say look at your make up of friends and what do they look like. If you’re purposely only seeking the rainbow coalition then you need to reevaluate.

    Whatevs… I have HWI fatigue!

  • “…I would like the Afro-American Cultural center to throw more events and I would like to attend workshops where I could learn how to do things important to black culture such as dance, sing, cook, etc.”

    O.o … comments like this are why I stay detached while at school. Its automatic.

  • I just looked on the site and one comment stood out to me. it stated: “I’m black, have black ‘friends’ and am an active member in at least one resident group, yet I still feel like an outsider. It seems as that if you didn’t make good black friends freshman year you won’t have any during your time at Yale.”

    as a senior at a PWI in southern cali, i constantly feel like an outsider at my university. I didn’t make a whole lot of friends freshmen year (i was home sick and tried to fill my time by working). Since then, I’ve tried and tried to make friends with the blacks on campus, but was unable to because they already established their cliques the first few weeks of school. If you don’t go to every black student union meeting or aren’t in a sorority, none of them want to have anything to do with you. Even in class. We’ll be the only two black people in class, but if they’ve never seen u at a meeting, good luck having a study buddy. Of course the white kids aren’t any better. Unless we’re forced to work in groups together, they aren’t talking to us (us meaning black students). I’ve noticed that throughout my four years here, the classmates I’ve been closest to have all been hispanics. Even then, you always yearn for a black friend to give the “look” to when your professor and/or classmate makes an ignorant remark about their darker counterparts….thank God I’m graduating!

    • *i think this quote better suits what i was trying to state:
      “The black community at Yale seems very exclusive. For example, if you aren’t a regular BSAY, BMU, AfAm House, or any other black organization member then its assumed that you want nothing to do with the black community and are therefore not as readily accepted by other black students.”

  • Paris

    I went to a predominately white New York State college (well, aren’t they all predominately White). I was also apart of a program for “economically disadvantaged” students. This program required us to experience the summer before our freshmen semester at the college. This was truly one of my most memorable college experiences. The program contained students from all racial backgrounds and we all hung out together during the summer. As soon as we came back for our fall semester with all the other students, I began to noticed the separation happen. We all pretty much self segregated. The white students in the program started hanging with other white students in the school, Asians hung with Asians and the Blacks with Blacks. It was shocking to see. I can actually say that some of the White and Asian girls I hung out with during that summer, I didn’t even hear from again my entire 4 years at the school.